I'm sure the hive-mind of Broadies down at the NJ DOE is buzzing today; Bruce Baker posted something they aren't going to like:
Statewide schools over and under predicted performance
First of all: you owe it to yourself to read the entire post. Bruce is one of those academics, like Paul Krugman, who can actually explain wonky stuff in terms you and I can understand.
What does all this mean? Well, Dr. Baker ran a "regression analysis" - a statistical tool for seeing how varying factors can change an outcome - on New Jersey charter schools. Here, he's looking at whether a charter school did better or worse than predicted on the state 8th Grade math test. The prediction is based on the characteristics of the students; for example, if a school has fewer poor students, we would expect it to do better on tests. Baker is attempting to control for those factors to see if the charter school itself is making a difference in student achievement.
The charters are in red. If they land above the red line, they are "beating the odds": they are doing better than we would expect, given the types of students they are teaching. If they are below, they are doing worse.
Given the charter cheerleading that goes on in this state, you'd expect to see many more schools above the line than below. Do you? Because I sure don't.
What's all this telling us, Professor?
On average, this statewide picture is actually pretty ugly. It would certainly be very hard to argue that charter school expansion across New Jersey has led to any substantive overall improvement of educational opportunities. Numerous charter schools are substantial underperformers. And overall, as the regression model indicates, the net performance is [dead] even. [emphasis mine]Baker goes on to caution us that we can't really tell whether the schooling charters provide is actually "adding value" anyway, based on the data we have. It may well be that peer groups are exerting an influence here far more than actual instruction.
This is an extremely valuable post - and it couldn't come at a better (worse?) time. Because the New Jersey state BOE
Remember: Chris Christie explicitly said that charter expansion is necessary to help kids over the next decade while his awesome tenure and awesome merit pay plans make the public schools awesomer:
I see tenure, merit pay and OSA as a bundle. I’d like to see them all go together. By repairing the tenure system, we’ll be able to get rid of some ineffective teachers, but then we’ve got to get effective ones in there and it’s going to be years and years. So that’s why I think OSA is such an important part, and increasing charter schools in urban areas, so that those kids don’t get lost while the fixes of tenure and merit pay are fixing the system in a 10-year horizon.We know that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that either gutting tenure or instituting merit pay will do anything to increase student achievement. We now also see that there is no evidence that charter expansion will do anything to help kids while Christie's ineffective "fixes" are being implemented.
In other words: Christie and ACTING Commissioner Cerf's plans are useless in both the long- and the short-term.
Hey, wasn't ACTING Commissioner Cerf suppose to put out a report dealing with all of this stuff? A report that looked at charter school achievement while controlling for student characteristics? A report that he would release "as quickly as is humanly possible?" Gosh, I wonder what happened to it...
459 days. What's the matter? Can't they find someone to cook the numbers for them?
It doesn't matter who they hire; Baker's just made the job that much harder. And he did it within a few days of the release of the new state "report card."
Gives new meaning to the phrase "as quickly as is humanly possible," doesn't it?